A new Kaspersky report sheds light on why some tech pros look for jobs on the dark web and how to spot suspicious and likely illegal positions from recruiters in that environment.
IT professionals are actively recruited on the dark web with job ads that are often similar to legitimate ones from regular recruitment websites. According to Kaspersky’s new research, this tech job recruiting environment is only an illusion — legal jobs are rare on the dark web.
Why are some IT pros looking for jobs on the dark web?
The number of ads offered on the dark web as collected by Kaspersky on 155 different dark web forums from January 2020 to June 2022 is close to 200,000, with peaks during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Some reasons that might prompt someone to look for a new job on cybercriminals forums, even when considering the risks of being caught by law enforcement, are:
- Getting laid off.
- Pay cuts.
- Lack of education requirements.
- A military service record.
- A criminal record that might prevent them from working in a particular area of expertise.
Sadly, some people are also unaware of the consequences of such illegal jobs and do not think they might be prosecuted.
How recruiting on the dark web usually works
Employers on the dark web market rely on test assignments to recruit skilled people. Some ads are more specific about the tests and allow checking the required level (Figure A); people are often paid to take these tests.
Employers also do interviews, and a few job offers mention a probationary period. One unusual requirement is that only people without addictions will be selected.
To attract profiles, dark web recruiters mention advantages such as remote working, full-time employment or flexible schedules. Yet people could fall prey to cybercriminal organizations such as FIN7, whose managers do not hesitate to threaten their employees who did not appear at work enough or thought of leaving the criminal organization.
Most recruited tech job roles on the dark web
Developers are in the most demand in this environment, followed by attack specialists (Figure B).
Threat actors are especially looking for these tech professionals:
- Malware developers, since most attacks use malware to compromise companies or exfiltrate data for example.
- Penetration testers who help malware developers by debugging malware and helping improve anti-security measures.
- Attack specialists who are able to perform the initial intrusion on the target and extend it inside the network.
- Reverse engineers for reversing tools, creating derived ones or analyzing code that needs to be targeted.
- IT administrators to configure and maintain the group’s IT infrastructure and make sure it is anonymized and running.
- Designers who create fake websites and phishing emails.
- Analysts who gather information on the targeted companies and provide useful information to help launch the attack.
Median salaries for these jobs on the dark web
The salaries for these jobs vary depending on the invested effort and the experience. Salaries are often paid via cryptocurrency. While the salary range varies from $200 to $20,000 per month, median salaries show that it is rare to find such high pay (Figure C). Kaspersky’s research reveals that contrary to popular belief, cybercriminals’ jobs are not paid significantly more than legitimate jobs.
How to spot a suspicious job offer from the dark web
Some jobs ads on the dark web do look similar to legitimate postings, so users should always be careful if they decide to follow up on a posting. When you’re talking to the recruiter, it will likely be obvious that something is wrong with the offer. Here are red flags to watch with such job offers.
- A real employer provides a full identity that can be verified.
- A real employer offers a real contract and generally does not pay in cryptocurrency.
- A real employer can provide legal documents to prove the existence of a company, depending on the country where the company is built, which seems hard to provide for a cybercriminal threat actor.
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